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Archive for June, 2013

Snowflakes for June Update

June 29th, 2013 at 09:30 am

Another good month for snowflakes this month. I seem to be doing really well at averaging over $100 per month. Last month was $170, so this month at $119 is well below, but this has been a really busy month. I didn't sell anything on Ebay or Craigslist.

Some of the snowflakes finished up the Christmas fund this month. Happy to meet that goal so early in the year. The remainder $56 is going to be applied to the mortgage to help increase the equity we have in the house. Right now I plan only to track the actual funds allocated towards the equity. There will be equity obtained by paying more to principal which means less interest, but that is a little harder to track here.

Thursday I was able to cash in more Swagbucks for a $25 deposit in my PayPal account. I also have a Pinecone survey to complete. Those two snowflakes will be allocated to July. I expect to count the credit card rewards in July, too! Smile

Did you track your snowflakes for June? How did you do?

Credit Card Reward Updates

June 28th, 2013 at 03:02 pm

I believe we are now done with the three credit cards I took out in my name for the rewards. With the spending part that is! Now to pay them off before interest is due. Those companies are not getting one extra cent from us. Smile

I charged the Washington DC trip early last week on the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card. That charge of $1201 has posted. And the rewards of $150 are already available! I plan to redeem the reward and put the $150 I would have paid into the equity fund. I will do this when I pay bills this weekend. Right now my plan is to pay the money off at a rate of $150 per month, since the account is 0% for over a year. I will keep you posted, so you know I'm keeping my promise to pay it off.

The Citi card was just under $500 in charges when we left for vacation. I have not added up our expenses yet, but I can see the balance on the card is around $885. There are also charges of over $300 pending, so we can put a fork in that card. We have met the $1000 in spending to redeem $250 in gift cards once the rewards post. I will also have this card paid down right away when I pay bills this weekend. I'll keep you updated.

I think I mentioned that I'm just waiting for one more charge to post to the Capital One card to meet the $500 in spending. It is our Verizon bill of $150. Since I'm expecting $100 in rewards, my plan is wait for the rewards to post and redeem as a credit, pay the balance and save the $100+ in rewards in the equity account. I might change my mind and wait for a check, but I doubt it.

Now...I have to talk to DH about applying for these same cards, so we can start the cycle again for another $500 to $600 in rewards!

We are currently taking advantage of credit card bonus and reward offers to make a little cash since we can't get good interest rates on our savings with out increased risk. While credit cards do involve risk, it is risk we able to manage by charging only our regular expenses and paying them off right away. I only suggest this to those responsible enough to avoid any interest charges.

Back From Vacation

June 27th, 2013 at 03:50 pm

We are back from vacation. Yep, it was a quick three day road trip, but fun and entertaining! I've done the laundry and purchased $100 worth of groceries. DH has mowed the lawn. Now I will need to get the receipts tallied. We did eat out every meal except breakfast. And a couple of the meals were a little pricey, but we enjoyed our time together and the food.

I opened the mail to find that DH has been issued a fine for speeding. This is from one of those automated photo enforcement things. The intersections are well marked so you can avoid speeding or running a red light easily. He was going 48 mph in a 35 mph zone, and received a $75 fine to be paid in about two weeks. He was disappointed, but it clearly shows speeding, thus we will pay the fine to the city.

It is always nice to be home and the cats are glad to see us, too. I was unpacked within 30 minutes of being home. How quickly do you unpack after a trip?

Quick Update

June 23rd, 2013 at 05:36 pm

I don't have much time to write this but I wanted to post a quick update. We have had a low key weekend, and spent part of our day with the other Army families at my husband's unit. We met his co-workers for the first time and many very nice family members. It was a good day.

The spending on the credit cards for the rewards is going well. As I said before, we will meet the minimum $500 spending on the Capital One card at the end of the month when our Verizon bill posts to the account. I just got the first statement, so I expect the rewards to be applied by the next statement. I paid for the Washington DC trip with the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card this week. That card also had a $500 minimum purchase limit, and we easily met that since the trip was just over $1,200.

In the meantime, we are working on the $1000 of purchases on the Citi Thank You Preferred card. At last check we have spent $460.70, so we are nearly halfway there. Our vacation expenses will be charged to the card, thus I expect we'll be over the minimum to receive the rewards by the end of the week.

Quick enough? I'll get more details to you when we return from vacation.

Financial Counselor Fellowship

June 21st, 2013 at 03:26 pm

Back in March, I applied for a fellowship with FINRA and the Military Spouse Association to be an Accredited Financial Counselor. I found out today that I was not selected. I was one of 500 applicants!! And if I remember right they only pick 50 each year to participate. So I'm not alone in being turned down and I can reapply next year. I'm disappointed, but not upset. It was a good experience just to apply.

In the meantime, I will look for ways to add to my skill set that might make me a better match in the future.

The good news today was that we know that DH will find out if he is promoted to Major on July 2nd. Fingers crossed he gets the promotion this year rather than needing to wait another year. Smile

A Want, Not a Need

June 20th, 2013 at 11:24 am

I purchased this chair yesterday for $99 plus tax. Yes, I did purchase it on the Citi Thank You Preferred Card. Yes, it is a want, and not a need. But I have to say I'm excited to have it. We all are...all four of us went together to pick it up!



It is shown here in my living room with our cat Riley trying it out. She approves. It doesn't match the living room, but I think I might get one that does. This is very close to our entry way and could use something there. This actual chair has been moved to our basement guest room where we have plum and gray bedding. It looks great down there, too!

Yesterday included buying a prescription for my older daughter for just $5 and a few fill in grocery items. Oh, actually we did buy her prescription sunglasses earlier in the day as well...just under $150. That went on the Target card to get the 5% off!

I hope to keep the rest of the week low on the spending side, but I did hear my youngest ask about pajama shorts and since she has none I think we'll keep our eyes peeled for those and I'd love a new top for summer vacation next week.

Have you given in to any wants recently?

Vacation Hotel Costs

June 18th, 2013 at 07:16 am

I booked three nights of hotel stays for our mini vacation get away. Total cost $172.48!

Here's how it is going down:

First two nights will be at a Marriott Residence Inn. We will get the government rate of $77 a night for a two room suite. We will get a King bed and the girls will take a pull out couch. They serve free breakfast and have a manager's reception in the evenings we are there. There is a kitchenette, if we decide to eat in for a meal or two. We do like to eat out on vacations, but at least it is an option. With tax the total stay will be $172.48.

The third night is in another town. We will stay at a Hampton Inn. We used Hilton Honors points we accumulated last year during out long extended stay in a hotel during our move to make this hotel stay FREE! We get free breakfast at this hotel as well.

An average of $57.50 a night is not bad in my opinion. And considering we should get three breakfasts and two dinners for four people included makes the deal even more valuable.

Our other costs will be fuel for the van, additional food and snacks, and admission to some attractions. We hope to have a nice mix of free activities in there as well. I think it will turn out to be just enough time away and low on the vacation expenditure scale as well.

Do you like to stay at hotels that include a meal? Do you save up points for free hotel stays? And don't you think it takes forever to rack these stays up? I do!!

I finally had to verify my account with Swagbucks today. I had redeemed $25 PayPal this weekend and it was refunded. I reordered and was prompted to verify my account. I did this by text message. The other option was snail mail. And now my PayPal money has been reordered!

Bill Error: Corrected!

June 17th, 2013 at 08:14 pm

I was reminded again that it is always good to look at your bills. Our Verizon wireless bill is sent by email. The amount is nearly always the same. Until this month. I was really hoping it wasn't because we went over our minutes. Luckily that was true.

The problem was our Employee Discount of 15% was not applied. Thus our bill was nearly $19 more than normal. Yikes!

I spoke with two people at Verizon today. The first was able to adjust the current bill and change the amount due to the normal amount. It will be deducted as usual at the end of the month. The second person I talked to was in the Employee Verification Department. She confirmed my husband is eligible. He has been eligible, but did not know why we were not given the discount last month. She kept indicating we would receive something in the mail to confirm employment once per year. Well, we haven't received ANYTHING. Not sure what the deal was, but it is correct for now.

Have you had a bill error recently? How did you contact the company? Phone, email, instant chat? Did you get resolution to your problem?

Free Exercise

June 17th, 2013 at 07:46 am

I mowed the lawn yesterday, thus quite a bit of walking. I also spent nearly an hour digging in the dirt. We have a section of our lawn that still needs sod installed (we were told this week). I am digging out the crab grass in this area. We could (maybe should) have used Round Up to kill it, but at this point it is too late with sod arriving soon. I still have about four to six square feet to finish this morning. I actually like to dig in the dirt...is that weird?

We did spend money yesterday on fertilizer, grub control (don't like finding those when I dig), and a new spray nozzle. I think we need to find a new place to buy fertilizer though. It was nearly $35 a bag, for just 5000 square feet. I think I seen them for less than $20 before. Oh well. It's done this time.

We also bought 4 gourmet cupcakes and a bunch of asparagus at a local indoor farmer's market. We spent $8 on the cupcakes and $3 on the asparagus. The asparagus was just cut at 1130am that morning and we purchased it around 3pm. These were our Father's Day treats. Both were very yummy!!

We also made our trip to the grocery store spending about $125. This included hair conditioner, toilet bowl cleaner, wine and a new pair of ear buds for our youngest daughter. The rest was food. I did use quite a few coupons...at least $10 worth if I remember right. This should last us until we leave for vacation.

Have you been getting outside now that the weather is warmer? Are you out for exercise, relaxation or both?

Free Entertainment

June 15th, 2013 at 01:04 pm

It's a low key weekend here. It's hot and muggy, my husband had two wisdom teeth pulled Friday and we were busy with the art fair last weekend. It feels good to stay relaxed.

I have earned enough Swagbucks for ANOTHER $25 PayPal cash deposit. This will make $350 from Swagbucks since the beginning of the year. Not bad, huh?

I took a walk around the neighborhood, stopped at a garage sale and bought two hanging shoe holders for $1 each. I will use them in hall closets to keep gloves, hats, sunscreen, umbrella and such organized. They are a pretty teal and black floral too!

My husband's wisdom teeth were not impacted, but needed to come out due to cavities. Since they are far back in the mouth they could not be drilled, thus just a basic visit to have them pulled. He says it would taken an Act of Congress to get approval to have not impacted teeth pulled by an oral surgeon, which is what he wanted to do. Turns out he did fine. Now he's a little groggy on Vicodin and Aleve! As military member he will not have to pay out of pocket. Even the Vicodin was free. We did have to pay for the Aleve and some extra gauze pads, which was about $7.

I've been cleaning and doing laundry today. If the humidity drops, I hope to mow (might need gas) and get to the grocery store tomorrow. I hope to buy enough groceries to last through the end of the month. We do have a few vacation days before the end of the month so a few less meals needing to be cooked at home.

This evening we do have to go out to attend a chamber concert my oldest daughter is performing in. Last night we got to hear her play a duet on her flute with a harpist. So pretty!! The concert is free.

Are you doing anything outside of your home that is free entertainment today or tomorrow? What is your best free thing to do outside of your home?

First Capital One Payment

June 14th, 2013 at 06:31 am

I made the first payment to Capital One today in the amount of $348.44. These are all the charges that have posted to the account at this point. I actually went to make the payment last night, but the electric bill payment that I schedule had not posted. So I waited. It was there this morning though!

I have our Verizon phone bill and Netflix scheduled for later this month. Those charges will complete the minimum spending requirement to receive the $100 cash. I will make the final payment to the card on July 1st.

I do have to remember that it is sometimes easier to ask for a statement credit when redeeming these rewards, rather than waiting for a check in the mail. So my first step before making the final payment really should be to redeem the rewards towards the final balance. Then pay the final balance and stash the money I would have paid on the card in our house down payment account. See? One has to be organized and think ahead on these things!!

Do you pay your utility bills online with a debit or credit card? Or do you snail mail the check? Anyone pay their utility bill in person?

First Citi Payment

June 13th, 2013 at 08:10 pm

The Citi Thank You Preferred card that I received earlier this month has been used just a little in the amount of $25.11. There actually was a statement issued already! That amount has been paid as of this evening.

This card has a $1000 minimum purchase to earn $250 in gift cards. We have three months to meet the goal. We will use it for everything we normally purchase and our small in state vacation at the end of the month. I expect by the end of the month we will have met the goal. Just $974.89 to go.

In fact, I did use this card today for fuel in my van, a gift card for my dad, and a book of stamps, which was around $85. I think my husband probably used it to pay for his haircut.

I do have a few out of the norm expenses that can be charged if needed. Prescription sunglasses and flute maintenance specifically.

The spending needed on these cards for the $500 in rewards bonuses is going fast. I may have my husband apply for these cards soon, so we have them on hand for another round of rewards. He will be able to apply for one additional card, Chase Freedom, so his ability to earn some rewards will be slightly larger, $600 I think.

On another note, I'm just 500 Swagbucks from earning another $25 gift card. I have not made goal at least two days this week. I wouldn't have anyway with vacation planned for later in the month. I don't want to be glued to Swagbucks when I can be enjoying my family and the beautiful scenery of the Mississippi River, right?!

Are you taking a vacation this summer? Are you flying or driving? Are you staying close to home? Who is traveling the farthest away?

Using credit cards to obtain rewards is only for those with cash to pay off purchases right away before interest accrues. And those organized enough to keep track of the charges, and due dates. We are not making purchases we wouldn't be making normally. All rewards are to bulk up the savings in our down payment fund.

Capital One Rewards Update

June 12th, 2013 at 05:35 pm

I began using the Capital One card this weekend while we were at my daughter's art fair exhibit ($550 in gross sales). It was at a town 30 minutes away, thus we ate out a little bit and treated my parents to dinner at home after the event ended on Sunday.

As it stands now, I have actual charges on the Capital One card in the amount of $348.44. These charges are as follows:
$_42.05 Z Restaurant
$_26.75 Art Fair purchase
$__3.20 Frozen yougert
$_59.94 Fuel for my van
$_53.34 Groceries
$_15.23 Michael's (frames)
$127.09 Electric bill
$_20.84 Laptop battery
$348.44 Total Purchases

Our Netflix subscription will be charged to the card on June 20 for $7.99. On June 29 when my Verizon wireless bill posts to the account in the amount of $150.85 we will meet the $500 minimum purchase requirement to receive the $100 reward.

Payday is Friday and I'm juggling a few cards and due dates, but there will be payments made to this card before one statement is even issued. Gotta love online management of credit cards and cash rewards!

Using credit cards to obtain rewards is only for those with cash to pay off purchases right away before interest accrues. And those organized enough to keep track of the charges, and due dates. We are not making purchases we wouldn't be making normally. All rewards are to bulk up the savings in our down payment fund.

Snowflakes for Equity

June 11th, 2013 at 07:18 pm

Now that I have completed our Snowflakes for Christmas, 2013 edition, I need a new place to put the snowflakes to work.

I will be adding these future 2013 snowflakes to our home equity. Sometimes, I may add them to cash that we are allocating to our future down payment or I may send them straight to the mortgage company to help pay down our principal balance. I leaning towards the latter. I will likely only move the money into the savings account or to the mortgage once a month. I will track it all here on the blog just as I have done with our Christmas Snowflakes.

The new goal will be called Snowflakes for Equity. I have made the goal $1000, which I think is a little high, but definitely possible. I hope to accomplish this new Snowflake goal by the end of 2013.

The exciting part is that I have money to add to it already! I received a $3 payment from Pinecone Surveys and my most recent $25 PayPal cash deposit from Swagbucks today. That's $28 towards our mortgage equity position!

Anyone working on paying down their mortgage? What is your plan? Little payments often, large lump sums, or a regular payment every month? Maybe a combination?



Snowflakes for Christmas: Done!!

June 10th, 2013 at 07:07 pm

My Christmas fund goal this year is $750. Today I just received the final snowflake of cash to complete it! And it was the most unexpected snowflake ever...a check for $13.26 for a Diamond Class Action Settlement. I must have filled out a claim form all the way back in 2008(according to the website) Those legal filings and claims take forever!!

The balance of the Snowflakes for Christmas fund was $688 at the end of May. I have received $25 from USAA rewards, $25 in PayPal fund earned through Swagbucks and now a check for $13.26. That means June earnings are $63.26 and my Snowflakes for Christmas now total $751.26.

Now that wasn't hard at all since those small amounts of money just add right up! Have you meet a financial goal with snowflakes of cash recently? Have you received an class action settlement check, EVER? Was it big or little?

More In the Mail

June 6th, 2013 at 07:20 pm

I did get the other two credit cards I applied for in the mail today. I still have to activate them. As I use them, I will show you what expenses we are using them for and how we will earn some extra funds towards our mortgage down payment.

I received another snowflake from Swagbucks in the amount of $25. It was deposited in my PayPal account. I will be putting that money in our Christmas Fund. With this money and the rewards I got the earlier this month I'm just $12 away from this years goal!!

I've been a member of MyPoints for a few years, but I stopped the emails a few months ago. As a result, I forgot about that avenue to earn gift cards. I recently remembered it. It is a much slower earning rate, so my goal is to get another 200+ points and redeem my final gift card. After that I will close the account.

Our weekend will be spent at an art fair in a nearby town, where my daughter is exhibiting and hoping to sell prints of her drawings for the very first time. We will actually have to collect sales tax! We have never done that before, but will include it in the sales price to make sales simple for customers. I also got to use my rusty Excel skills to figure our costs, tax and profit on each piece of art work.

Do you buy art? Do you budget for it or buy it spontaneously?

The Fun Begins

June 5th, 2013 at 05:25 pm

My American Express Blue Cash Everyday card arrived in the mail today. I forgot that this card has 0% interest through September 2014, just like the Citi Thank You card I applied for.

I will use one of the cards to make the full payment for the Washington DC trip, which I must do by the end of the month. This way I can make payments towards the balance over the course of the year without paying any interest or dipping into other cash savings. If I used the AE card, the rewards are offered as a statement credit, so this would work well for redeeming.

I expect to pay off the balance long before the trip in April, but at least I have a little wiggle room and can control when I pay it off. This way is much better than making payments directly with the travel company as they charge all sorts of processing fees. Yuck. I also have the protection from the credit card company if anything goes awry with the travel agency.

The bonus offer on the AE card is $150 for spending just $500. This transaction will be $1250, so there is no problem meeting the minimum. The rewards are given as a statement credit as I understand it. I will redeem at one time when I would have made a payment and keep the payment money in cash to save towards our mortgage goal.

It does help, I think, to use the card for large transactions, rather than a lot of little ones. It is just easier to manage and track the where I am in meeting the requirements.

Anyone know of any good bonus offers for opening any other type of account, brokerage, checking or savings? I'd be interested in those offers as well as a way to bring in extra cash to meet our goals.

June Snowflake

June 4th, 2013 at 11:12 am

I redeemed some rewards with USAA over the weekend and it posted to our checking account yesterday. The amount was $25!

I only need $62 this month to meet the Christmas Fund goal, so this recent redemption is very helpful. I will be even closer once my last Swagbucks redemption actually arrives in my PayPal account.

I did get my free plants in the ground yesterday. Boy, am I sore from digging up that 6x9 space! I did buy $18 worth of mulch today for the bed, but it is now raining.

The girls are officially done with school. I'm looking forward to less driving and getting more organized around the house. I hope I can find some things to sell on eBay or Craigslist while I'm at.

The bad news is our water bill went up this month. We did do some deep watering for awhile this spring to make sure that the sod planted late in the fall really took. I think it was worth the extra $20+.

Have a super frugal Tuesday!

Account Close Fee

June 3rd, 2013 at 05:52 pm

Fidelity has cut a check for the final IRA money we are transferring to Vanguard. I noticed that they did not liquidate in full and there was $50 remaining in the account. I sent an instant message to them and found out it is an account close fee. Darn. I don't like surprises, but I still want the money moved, so I have to just let it go.

I did ask what the fee was for. It covers the cost of closing the account and maintaining records for the next 2 years. This is a common industry practice apparently. I worked in the mutual fund industry and I'm pretty sure we didn't charge the fee. Of course, I worked for a load mutual fund company....so those fees were there, just not as obvious! The agent also said they have one of the lower fees in the industry. Not sure why that needed to be mentioned as the check has already been cut.

I'm excited that all the money from Fidelity is finally moved and we have one less company to keep track of. Have you ever paid an account close fee? How much was it?

Road Trip=Money Spent +Free Plants

June 2nd, 2013 at 03:54 pm

We took a road trip to our home town which involved driving 8 hours this weekend, some meals out, some free provided meals. We had a great time connecting with family and old friends. The time always goes too fast!

I haven't added up the money spent, but I do know these perennials I dug out of my parents garden beds were free!! They are getting their house ready to move so thinning out helps them, while the plants will help our yard look like it wasn't just built!

I brought home chives, poppies, lamb's ear, daylillies, shasta daisies, coral bells, and a couple of bearded iris bulbs! Now to actually get them planted. I didn't plan on bringing them home, so my yard is not quite prepped for them. Luckily I have some ideas. Smile



I also got this broken, but very pretty pot! Now I get to decide how to use it. Smile



Did you get anything free this weekend? Did you get to spend time with family or friends?